PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III accepted the resignation of suspended Philippine National Police Gen. Alan Purisima on Friday, but again blamed sacked Special Action Force head Getulio Napeñas for the “ill-planned” operation in Mamasapano that led to the death of 44 police commandos.
In his address to the nation Friday evening, the President said that was the finding of his own investigation on the bloody clash last Jan. 25, ahead of an ongoing police probe and a congressional inquiry.
He did not say why Purisima resigned, however, amid reports that he was running the Mamasapano operation despite his suspension on corruption charges.
Aquino said while he believes the separate probe by the police board of inquiry will be able to get to the bottom of the issue, he felt the need to initiate his own investigation and talk to the people involved in the operation.
“Based on my own investigation, this is what is clearly coming out: the situation that the troops faced on the ground was very different from what was planned,” he said.
“The commander of the operation should have known this because he was stationed in Mindanao. We expect that he should have situational awareness. As commander, he knows the entire plan, and the danger that comes with it—he should be the first to know if the plan was implemented correctly.”
“Based on our study of what really happened, because the situation on the ground has changed, there were not less than three instances when they could have aborted the operation, or delayed the operation, or change the plan fully. The need to do that became even more evident because he knew there was no coordination, and they could not expect help or they could only expect little help from the Armed Forces because there was not enough time to prepare,” the President said. Aquino said Napeñas will have the chance to explain his actions before the board of inquiry.
The President also confirmed reports that Purisima has resigned, and that he has accepted it.
Aquino came under fire after he admitted consulting Purisima on the continuing operation against Jema’ah Islamiya terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir even after the latter was suspended by the Ombudsman in December. The President said he and Purisima go a long way back since the term of his mother, the late President Corazon Aquino. “We have been through a lot: he was with me in fighting powerful people. When I was a member of the opposition, and despite the possible backlash to his career, Alan did not leave me,” the President said.
“That is why I am sure you will understand why it is painful for me that he is leaving the service under these circumstances. I accept, effective immediately, the resignation of General Purisima. And I thank him for the many years that he served the country before this tragedy happened,” he added.
In a television interview minutes after Aquino’s address to the nation, Purisima said with his resignation, the “PNP can now continue with its mission to serve and protect the people.” “The past few days have been very difficult for me, my family and my friends. I can only surmise things have been more difficult for you Mr. President,” Purisima said, reading from his resignation letter. He said his decision to leave would give the President “more room to move to address the issue.”
But Purisima insisted that he was not the one calling the shots on the Jan. 25 operation.
“I was suspended at that time. How can I be the one directing the operation?” he said.
“I gave the intelligence package (on Marwan) but I was not calling the shots. That’s the job of the SAF commander,” added Purisima, who said he will attend the Senate probe next week. The President said the government will do everything to boost the morale of the SAF and help it become a fully operational unity anew. He challenged the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to help the government in seeking justice for the slain SAF troopers. “We need to hold accountable the perpetrators, especially amid reports that there were wounded SAF soldiers who could no longer fight but were still killed,” he said.
He also warned the MILF to “stand aside” as the government runs after another JI bomb expert, Basit Usman, who carries a bounty of $1 million.
“If Usman is within your (MILF) territory, or if he is being coddled by anyone of you, I expect that you surrender him to the authorities. If not, do everything to help arrest Usman. And if this is still not possible, stand aside in our efforts to apprehend Usman,” the President said.
“Let this serve as a reminder and warning: we will arrest Usman no matter your (MILF) decision, regardless of whoever is coddling him and wherever he may be hiding. To those who are trying to prevent us from apprehending Usman, remember that you will be going against the state, and we will not let you get in the way (sasagasaan namin kayo),” he added.
Aside from justice for the slain SAF troopers, the President also vowed to take care of their families until his last day in office. “I am the father of the nation, and 44 of my children have been killed. We cannot bring them back anymore. This tragedy happened under my administration, and I will carry this until my dying days,” he said.
“They were my responsibility, together with the entire SAF involved in this operation,” the President added.
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